Late Cancellations are Putting Me in the Poorhouse!

The past month has been a nightmare of 4:55 pm cancellations for the next day, after I've already turned down six jobs, and then I end up with no job at all when it seems like everyone in town is taking a deposition. What is the deal? I know there are a lot of factors to cancellations, but I am beginning to think it's a trend due to the commitment-phobic state everyone is in nowadays. "Well, if I wake up in the morning and just don't feel like it, I won't go!" or maybe it really is some of the flimsy excuses I've heard this month, "We forgot to tell our client we were taking his deposition tomorrow and he can't come." This at 4:50 p.m., no kidding. My family and friends all say, "Y'all should charge cancellation fees!" I say, "Heck, we can hardly get them to pay the bills when we produce a nice trancript for them. They sure as heck won't pay a cancellation fee!" That, and all I know is, it is really hard to make decisions based on little or no information about upcoming jobs. How many of us have driven to East Jesus for a "fantastic" job, only to find out the witness has to wait for her husband to get home so he can drive her, so we sit and wait for two hours, she shows up and the depo takes thirty minutes? Two weeks ago I showed up for a court hearing -- had the summons in my hand -- and the courtroom was closed, locked and dark. Someone finally came down the hall and said, "You're not waiting for court, are you? Because he never has court on Fridays." The only thing that made me feel better was the defendant was there, did not know I had been hired for his case, so since his attorney didn't show up, I was able to calm him down and put him with the right people so he could find out what was going on with the case, poor man was a nervous wreck. I am starting to wonder if someone is trying to tell me something, like maybe it's time for a new career for me. I guess I'm going to hang in there for now. I feel like I am in my prime as a reporter, seriously. It would be a shame to waste all this talent, boys and girls, now wouldn't it?

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Comment by Joy Hemphill on July 19, 2008 at 9:27
Re: How many of us have driven to East Jesus for a "fantastic" job, only to find out....

I realize that generally speaking a reporter is reimbursed mileage for such jobs and, on the face of such reimbursement, it may look as if the reporter actually pockets a little money. But I assure you, if one were to thoroughly look at what it costs to run a vehicle (not even considering the recent huge upswing in gas prices) there is no pocketing of money here. Hey, come on! Do you think the IRS, who allows such a mileage reimbursement, would really allow us to pocket money? It is worked out: that is what it costs to run the "average" vehicle. So, when I take those five-hour drive-time assignments, I charge an hourly fee in addition to my mileage reimbursement. I do not gouge the reporting firms/attorney clients: I try to be abundantly fair. But the word "fair" is the key. The only way I can earn an income is with my time, so I do charge an hourly rate for my driving time.
Now, I understand that "market forces" being prevailing that there may be some who are unwilling to pay the hourly fee. In that case I (hopefully diplomatically and with respect) decline the assignment. I am hoping that eventually the "market" will realize that it is a lot easier to obtain the services of a good reporter if one pays for such services. Ha-ha. A little sardonic humor, huh?
Comment by Katy Cuellar on June 26, 2008 at 11:32
Ha ha ha Patricia! Isn't that the truth!
Comment by Patricia Babits on June 26, 2008 at 9:57
then the ones you are praying will cancel go forward.
Comment by Katy Cuellar on June 26, 2008 at 7:23
Sherry, the problem is that you might lose the client. The client will probably re-set this depo with you, but if you charge, he would go to another reporter who doesn't charge cancellation fees. From what I've read here on CSRNation, there are a lot of reporters in Texas, so that
means you have to be very compliant.. The only way cancellation fees would work is if everybody agreed to do it, I guess, but I doubt that would ever happen. I'm lucky enough to work for a firm that can usually just pull another job out of the hat, and I don't have to really make each day count the way Sue does, but I can really feel for her.
Comment by Sue Baker on June 26, 2008 at 5:17
And though doctors and dentists request you cancel early and threaten a late fee, I haven't heard of anyone paying one. Of course, I never cancel late, because I know how it feels, so maybe I haven't run into it.
Comment by Sue Baker on June 26, 2008 at 5:16
I know. It really is. It has definitely put me in bad shape for this month.
Comment by Sherry Glascock on June 25, 2008 at 23:06
Why not charge a fee when cancellation is anything less than 24 hours!? Like it has been said, doctors and dentists and other professionals charge a 24-hour cancellation fee. Most times, it's a hefty or whole office fee, which can be more than a per diem fee. Not only do deposition court reporters rely on that job that they are going to the next day, because they've already turned down the other job the came in after that call that could have gone all day with an 0 + 4, there's also the babysitter or daycare or some other reliance that the court-reporter mom/dad is depending on and has to pay for whether s/he works or not. So this 4:50 crap is bologna!
Comment by Katy Cuellar on June 25, 2008 at 9:03
Wouldn't it be nice to "weed out" the ones who cancel most?

The doctors and dentists here charge a fee if you don't cancel 24 hours in advance. Do they do that in Texas?
Comment by Sue Baker on June 25, 2008 at 8:51
I agree with you, Katy. Christmastime, for sure you can count on working all the time, so do your shopping early! Summer has always been a little bit slow here. I know the attorneys have the same problems we have as far as learning Friday night or Monday morning they are going to trial and having to cancel everything they have planned. I guess it's just the nature of the beast, settlements on the courthouse steps rearranging dockets at the last minute.
Comment by Katy Cuellar on June 25, 2008 at 8:33
Sue and Kyung, based on past experience, I think January is a good month to take off, as well as most of the time between June and August. September through Christmas is fairly busy. Christmastime can be busy because other reporters with families are taking off. There is a period around tax time, tho, where things seem to slow down, too.

I know a lot of this is trial-driven, where the attorneys have put off taking depos till the last minute when they finally have a firm trial date and possible settlement is up in the air. When you think about it, the trials would have a lot to do with when the judges are not on vacation, and I suspect a lot of judges go away sometime in the summer, so trials slow down.

What do you think?

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